How Arsenal Will Line Up Against Swansea

Charlie MelmanCorrespondent IIMarch 24, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22:  A dejected Lukas Podolski of Arsenal looks to the ground during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on March 22, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The best way for Arsenal to move on from the spanking they received from Chelsea last weekend is simply to respond with a convincing victory at home against Swansea.

Perhaps it is good that Arsenal have to play this match in front of their own fans. It will force them to really prepare and turn up for this match.

Swansea surely smell blood, and only a comprehensive win will quell a fanbase that is rightly incensed at their team's abject performances against elite opposition.

Mikel Arteta can do all the apologizing he wants, but all that matters for Arsenal is how they play the next game. After that, the only fixture to worry about is the next one, and so on. They must repair the immense damage they have caused themselves one kick, pass, goal and victory at a time.

Yet the inquest that is certainly taking place behind the scenes at the Emirates surely extends beyond the locker room. Ultimately, Arsene Wenger will have to do some introspection and evaluate his tactics ahead of the final nine (or 10, if the Gunners progress to the FA Cup final) games of the season.

He will almost certainly make several changes to the team that admitted defeat from the opening whistle at Stamford Bridge. This is how his starting XI might look.


Wenger will be forced to make one change, and that is Thomas Vermaelen for Laurent Koscielny. The manager told on Monday that Koscielny, who was withdrawn at halftime against Chelsea, sustained a calf injury and is a sure absence for at least the next match.

Vermaelen is a ready replacement and has played quite well in the few appearances he has been given this season, so Arsenal fans need not fear another defensive catastrophe—at least not simply because of the Belgian's inclusion.

Even if Koscielny was not injured, I would advocate rotating one of the centre-backs, because if they don't deserve to lose their spots after a 6-0 defeat, when will they? Unfortunately, the club only has one specialized central defender to fill in.

Kieran Gibbs will return to left-back in all likelihood after his obviously ridiculous suspension was officially overturned by the FA. He barely played against Chelsea before he was mistakenly sent off, so he should be fresh.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22:  Referee Andre Marriner shows Kieran Gibbs of Arsenal a red card during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on March 22, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Ima
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Unfortunately, Wenger barely has any options in midfield. Ideally, he would switch the entire lot that simply collapsed last weekend; their giveaways and failure to provide defensive cover were the root cause of Arsenal's steamrolling.

But Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Abou Diaby (remember him?) are all out, so there is very little to choose from.

Mathieu Flamini is available, though. And after he was inexplicably left out of the starting XI against Chelsea, he must be reinstated to solidify a unit that was utterly spineless and lacked any passion or grit.

Arteta could be left out, but Wenger would be wise to start his most conservative midfielder to prevent another defensive meltdown. That needs to be his first priority.

Arteta deserves to be dropped, as do Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. All, and especially the latter two, performed shockingly poorly against Chelsea, repeatedly giving the ball away and allowing their opponents to run over them.

SWANSEA, WALES - SEPTEMBER 28:  Bacary Sagna of Arsenal (R) in action with Wayne Routledge of Swansea during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Arsenal at Liberty Stadium on September 28, 2013 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Scott He
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

But what are Wenger's alternatives? Tomas Rosicky probably cannot play two intense 90-minute matches in three days (or at least will not be able to do so with his customary quality) and Lukas Podolski was just as terrible on the left wing.

So Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain, who are obviously better than their most recent performances, will likely get the chance to redeem themselves at home.

That leaves the right wing open, and why not give Serge Gnabry a chance to impress? The young German has been excellent whenever called upon this season and is untainted by the events of last weekend.

What can Wenger lose by giving Gnabry a chance? Every other available option has utterly failed, and Swansea are manageable opposition.

The same logic applies for Yaya Sanogo, who surely cannot perform worse than a knackered Olivier Giroud.

Giroud does seem to disappear in big matches, especially when Arsenal are getting mauled. That might be a function of the sheer number of games he has played this season with no prolonged period of rest.

Then again, he might just be a slightly above-average striker. Either way, Giroud is certainly one of the easier players for Wenger to drop in a game that necessitates a whole lot of players' roles being questioned.